Breaking the Silence

I am on the edge of one of my silent phases, where nothing I write appears good enough to share. The last time this happened, it lasted for three months, and it took reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories to get me out of it. I am not scared of this phase. Silence can be rewarding. But after reading this essay about books on reading, I decided to do a post about the things I have been reading over the weekend.

Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott

We all have writers we read when we’re struggling with our voices. These writers are our tuning forks. When silence looks attractive, and we wonder why we share our thoughts at all, their well-tuned voices remind us of the reasons we open ourselves for others to peep. They remind us that although we write for ourselves, we share our work in the hope that our readers will feel what others have made us feel through words. I say we here because I would like to believe I am not alone in this.

Anne makes me think, makes me laugh, makes me look at the detailis of my mundane life with a fresh sense of wonder. And in Travelling Mercies, as she writers about her walk of faith, she does all these things again and again and again.

Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill

If books are supposed to expand our humanity and increase our empathy by immersing us in the lives of people as different from us as possible while withholding judgement, then the stories in Bad Behaviour represent my best efforts in expanding myself in recent months. The stories in this collection were said to have been inspired by the time Gaitskill spent as a call-girl/ stripper. It’s easy to see that. A story about prostitutes by many people would either demonise or over-romantisise the profession, or just be downright unreal. But, in Trying to Be, one of my favourite stories in the collection, none of these extremes is touched. The characters are real, human and whole.

If I choose to write a book about bad behavior, it would possibly contain stories of me eating popcorn on the street in Obalende, or sleeping-in when I should be in class, or forgetting to congratulate my parents on their wedding anniversary. That book would be bland, boring and only good for starting fires. Six stories into the collection, I’m grateful that someone like Gaitskill could take her life and from there write stories that would help expand my sense of what it means to be human. Because, let’s face it, we can’t all have story-worthy bad behaviours.

From my online reading, there’s Rosa Lyster‘s essay titled The Edge of the Herd, number twenty-seven of her one essay a week series. It is difficult for me to describe why I like Rosa’s essays, but I really do. She writes about books the way I hope someday to emulate with success: light and earnest all at once. Then there’s Immaculata’s Sensing an Ending with Julian Barnes. Immaculata did a short series about Teju Cole’s essays a couple of weeks ago that will be a delight to Teju Cole fans like me. Lastly, I’m adding a piece I read last week that shook me and increased my anxiety about marriage. It is titled Till Death Do Us Part.

If you love reading lists, you should follow and jump on their Saturday Mind Travel. And if there’s anything you are reading that you think I should see too, please share in the comments section below. Thank you.


2 Replies to “Breaking the Silence”

  1. Fascinating suggestions – I already like the look of Rosa Lyster – and anyone who writes about Teju Cole is worth a follow in my book….. Thanks for sharing

    Currently reading Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory, a book I was turned on to after reading his essay from that book ‘Mr Secrets’… All about the creative non-fiction life, I guess!


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